Am I Troy Davis? A Slut?; or, What’s Troubling Me about the Absence of Reflexivity in Movements that Proclaim Solidarity

By Guest Contributor Stephanie Gilmore

Some background on Stephanie’s post: Shit continues to hit the fan regarding the racefail not only from SlutWalk NYC and the now-notorious sign, but also from another SlutWalk–that in Philly. Several anti-racist feminists, both women of color and white (me included), called out Jake Aryeh Marcus, the main organizer/legal counsel/”intersectional partner” of SlutWalk Philly about her defending some of the marches’ racism and using common derailing tactics to do so. Her response in her final post on the thread was to tell me to “go fuck yourself.” (After the call to archive the thread, said organizer removed her comments from it. However, Sydette Harry, the thread’s moderator and author of the original post called “Open Letter to SlutWalk,” assures us she’s got screencaps of her comments.) During this–except for a very few–those white feminists who profess to be anti-racist remained publicly silent even as us women of color kept asking, “Why aren’t the white anti-racist feminists saying something publicly about all of this??”

Jake posted her thoughts about the sign and the continued racialfail at SlutWalk USA, which is not affiliated to the pages of official SlutWalks. 

 “Using the “N” word in this context may or may not be appropriate. There will always be things that make some people uncomfortable. Yes, SW is working on making the inclusive nature of the marches better . . . but, when thousands of people arrive it is “tough” to vet what each person is going to say in advance. “Ultimately, SW will not be something that speaks to EVERYONE. That should be OK; there is enough room for many different approaches to ending rape….Let’s stay focused on the primary goal of SW; ending rape.”

Filmmaker/activist  Aishah Shahidah Simmons, who has spoken at and about SlutWalk, posted her objection to the Jake’s comment. According to people who’ve been on the page, some of the commenters made racist statements in response to Aishah. Crunk Feminist Collective made this clarion call: 

“Calling all anti-racist allies: It has unfortunately come to our attention that the creator of the SlutWalk USA FB page is making racist comments in the discussion that follows its link to Aishah Shahidah Simmons Cultural Worker’s piece about the unfortunate racism at last week’s SlutWalk NYC. While we would be perfectly happy to go get #CRUNK with this clearly misguided individual, this is the time for our anti-racist allies to step up and do some of the labor of teaching this person where and how their thinking is so ridiculously, offensively, and dangerously wrong. We also hope that organizers of various SlutWalks will officially condemn this page. If you have time and energy on your Sunday, your labor of anti-racist love in this matter would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks from the CFs.”

Several white anti-racist feminists responded on SlutWalk USA’s thread. Stephanie, who took part of SlutWalk Philly, went a step further and wrote this response, not only answering the question “where are the white anti-racist feminists?” but also answering Jake, who claimed to be speaking for/with her.

The essay, after the jump–AJP

1.

On September 21, 2011, I joined hundreds of my friends and millions of people around the world to watch, through tears and in abject horror, as Troy Anthony Davis was executed by the State of Georgia. In the twenty years between Davis’ trial for the murder of police officer Mark McPhail and his execution, Davis maintained his innocence while witnesses recanted the testimony that sent Davis to death row. Despite conflicting testimonies and inadequate evidence, the state put aside lingering and longstanding doubt and instead, put Troy Anthony Davis to death.

On Facebook, Twitter, and other media outlets, I saw virtual and real friends declare that “I am Troy Davis.” They changed their profile pictures to a picture or image of Davis, or a black box, all in an attempt to articulate a sense of solidarity, a stand against the injustice of the prison industrial complex and a state thoroughly entrenched in the murder of a man who may not have committed the crime of murder. I agree wholeheartedly that the state was wrong in executing Mr. Davis and I grieve for his death as well as that of Officer McPhail. But in the weeks since Davis’s execution, I have been wondering if people really understand how and why Davis came to be murdered at the hands of the state. People insist that “I am Troy Davis,” but what does that mean?

In many ways, I am not Troy Davis. I am a middle-class, 40-something-year-old white woman. According to a 2008 Pew Center on the States report, one in 36 Hispanic adults is in prison in the United States. One in 15 Black adults is too, a statistic that includes one in 100 Black women and one in nine Black men, age 20-34.  Although one of my parents spent time in prison, and through incarceration joined the swelling ranks of 2.3 million imprisoned people and many more in the system of probation, halfway houses, and parole, I and my white peers do not face systemic racial injustice in the structures of imprisonment. And it does not begin or end with the prison system. Black children are suspended and expelled from school at 3 times the rate of white children. Racial discrimination in funding for education also affects children’s success in school, as cash-poor school districts are also overwhelmingly Black and Latino neighborhoods.  Schools have been and remain a pipeline to prison for many Black and Latino children, and generations of families, prison is a reality. One in 15 Black children currently has a parent in jail. People say that the system is broken, but I (along with others in the prison abolition movement) admit that the system is working exactly as it was set up to do. Can I really say, “I am Troy Davis” without giving serious consideration to the realities of racism in the prison industrial complex? Does that just become little more than the adoption of a slogan and a picture, without a real awareness of the racist realities of the prison industrial complex?

2.

On August 6, 2011, I joined Slut Walk Philadelphia. It was a beautiful day and hundreds of people moved through Center City to end up at City Hall, where even more gathered to speak out against sexual violence. I had been following Slut Walks with great delight because I see the people power in the sheer numbers of women and men who are fighting back against sexual violence.  So when I was asked to participate, and to stand with queer people of Color in a more racially inclusive Slut Walk than I had seen to date, I said “yes” because the fight to end sexual violence is my fight. And fighting against a culture that perpetuates and promotes rape; cheers on rapists; and diminishes, humiliates, and silences victims through law, education, and entertainment will demands knowledge that the system, again, is not broken. It is doing the very work it was constructed to do – sexual violence is a tool of ensuring white status quo. And if we are to end sexual violence, we must acknowledge how it operates.

I have struggled to accept a movement that does not acknowledge the very problematic word “slut” and how historically many women have not been able to shake the label of “slut.” I participated in the struggle – the movement as well as my own internal struggle – because I wanted to engage in, create, and sustain dialogue. Indeed, many criticize the apparent move to claim “slut” – how can you pick up something you’ve never been able to put down? Black women have been most vocal about the longer legacy of sexual violence done onto their bodies – often against the backdrop of slavery and colonialism — simply for being Black. But I continued to push into these bigger conversations and analyses. I listened and engaged when Crunk Feminist Collective challenged Slut Walks, when BlackWomen’s Blueprint issued their “Open Letter from Black Women to Slut Walk Organizers,” and when individual women of Color (and only women of Color) spoke publicly about racist actions within individual marches as well as racism within the larger movement. White women I know made private comments about different expressions of racism, but never spoke up to challenge individual actions or larger frameworks of analysis, leaving me to wonder “why?”

And then I saw the sign from Slut Walk NYC bearing the words “Women are the N*gger of the World.” I don’t care that the quotation is from John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I don’t care that the woman was asked to take down the sign – although I certainly do care that a woman of Color had to ask her to do so while white women moved around her, seemingly oblivious. I am angry when I continue to see so many white women defending it expressly or remaining complicit in silence, suggesting that “we” (what “we”?) need to focus on sexual violence first, as if it is unrelated to racism. And I wonder, can I really claim to be a part of the nascent Slut Walk movement without giving serious consideration to the realities of racism within very publicly identified facets of it? Can I be a part of it when so many women – my very allies and sisters in antiracist struggle – are set apart from it, or worse, set in perpetual opposition to it?

3.

My question is, how can we be in solidarity when we are not willing to be reflexive and to check ourselves, check each other, and be checked? Bernice Johnson Reagon acknowledged that coalition building is hard work, made even harder by people who come to coalition seeking to find a home. My sense, or perhaps one sense I have, is that many people came to the “I Am Troy Davis” momentum or the Slut Walk marches looking for a home, a place where they can sit back and feel comfortable in their hard (very hard!) work, and comforted by others who pat them on the head and tell them “good job.” This is not to dismiss genuine concern for the state of our world. Perhaps we’re all lonely, as the realities of social justice work have taken on different and palatable forms since WTO and 9/11. So many people are down for the immediate issue – the indefensible execution of Troy Davis, the indefensible perpetuation of sexual violence — and that matters. But I worry that many white people aren’t paying attention to the larger structures in place. They are not being reflexive about the realities of racism that undergird prison incarceration, death penalty, and sexual violence.

I am not Troy Davis; I never will be. A system built on the foundation of racism ensures that I will not confront the realities of prison incarceration in the same ways as Black and Latino people. I am a strong advocate against sexual violence, but I cannot fight in and for a movement that is not interested in the realities of racism and the ways that racism undergirds sexual violence, and instead so blindly employs racist language. (The “Occupy Wall Street” actions call for me again the realities of racism and its necessity within the existing structure of capitalism – and the insistence among white people that people of Color indulge a luxury of time and money to sit in with them is untenable and racist. Many others have pointed out that the language of “occupation” is inherently problematic because bodies and lands have been historically occupied, often through sexual violence and criminalization. The movement itself needs to be decolonized.) Even as I support openly the prison abolition movement, the end to sexual violence, and the uprooting of a socioeconomic system that ignores the 99%, I cannot do so without deep awareness of racism that is operating within and among these movements. It is my work as a white activist to speak to and be aware of these legacies and histories of racism. Women and men of Color need not be alone in the front lines of identifying racist action and reaction within the movement. Insisting that people of Color have a voice only when it comes to identifying racism perpetuates, rather than alleviates racism. As I look at the actions of some people within these movements, I am reminded again that the racism of the supposed left is even more damaging and hurtful than the naked racism of the right.

If we are to work together in solidarity, we must do so reflexively, conscious of our actions and the potential outcomes before we act. This is not a call to focus on criticism and self-reflection to the point that we are inactive. That is unproductive, to be sure. But it is a call to be mindful and vigilant about racist action and reaction, to come to terms with the fact that we must do the work of understanding racist underpinnings of prison incarceration, the death penalty, and sexual violence if we are to make significant progress. Undoing racism must be at the core of our collective work across movements. To echo Dr. Reagon’s statement, we need to be honest and ask if we really want people of Color or if we’re just looking for ourselves with a little color to it. So much of the movement work, as it stands, seems to be looking for a little color, when we need to be exploring the realities of racism as part of the problem, not an additive to the “real” issue. In the absence of reflexivity about the structural forces that are keeping us apart, we will never be able to engage in real coalition work that will be required if we are to take seriously our goals of ending sexual violence and the death penalty. These movements as they are going now may continue, but they will not do so in my name and certainly not without my consent.

So no, I am not Troy Davis. I am not a slut. I am not an occupier of Wall Street or any street. The fights are my fights, but the current methods and analyses are not mine. I cannot sit by and listen to people debate the efficacy of the death penalty without understanding that it is the larger complex of incarceration and the “elementary-to-penitentiary” path that tracks and traps Black and Latino youthby design. I am done with the handwringing and “white lady tears” of so many white women who keep defending racist approaches and actions and, at times, respond with violence when confronted and challenged. Such behavior only reinforces the fact that these movement spaces as they are currently defined are not safe. My friend, colleague, and sister-in-spirit Aishah Shahidah Simmons said it best when she commented, “It’s sobering to observe how White solidarity is taking precedence over principled responses…. ” Sobering, indeed. I will most assuredly fight to end the prison industrial complex, sexual violence, and unbridled capitalism, but I will do so from a space that centers the racist roots of incarceration, criminal “justice,” capitalism, and sexual violence.  Thankfully, those spaces already exist – even if they remain peripheral in the mainstream media (and in much of what is left of the lefty media). But it is time to pivot the center. Without reflexive analysis of racism and coalition work grounded in antiracist movement, we miss the real root of the problem as well as real opportunities to create change.  

Image credits: Philebrity.com, TransGriot, Blog Studio

  • dp

    It’s not about “poor oppressed men.” I’m not trying to take from anyone else’s oppression. But the studies suggest that the death penalty is often used arbitrarily. and it’s more often sentenced to men. if there is oppression, it’s part of the same system as racism. It’s not rich white men who are being executed, it’s men of all races who are marginalized – the poor, the uneducated, the mentally ill. As well, of the women on death row, they are frequently offered clemency.  

    I’m not saying that gender is the key factor, but it is a factor. 

  • dp

    However, even when you factor in that women commit only 10% of murders, they make up less than 1% of people executed. It sure sounds like gender is a factor.

  • http://profiles.google.com/arkiv2001 Erin Winslow

    “. . .the insistence among white people that people of Color indulge a luxury of time and money to sit in with them is untenable and racist. . .”

    Since WHEN is being unemployed (which many of the occupywallstreet protesters claim to be) some type of luxury? There’s a lot of reasons for people having time on their hands that have nothing to do with privilege!!! And if everyone (white at least) has so damn much money, why do they keep asking for donations (money AND practical supplies)? And why on earth do you assume that all or most POC are poor? Yes, a larger percentage of the Black and Latino population is poor but there are community members who manage to live middle-class lives.  

    • Anonymous

      While I agree with your larger point, I sincerely hope this is meant to be snark ‘but there are community members who manage to live middle-class lives’. There is something terribly off about that sentence.

      • http://profiles.google.com/arkiv2001 Erin Winslow

        What is “off”? I am not a mind-reader.

      • http://profiles.google.com/arkiv2001 Erin Winslow

        During the 12 years I lived in Charlotte, NC, (I moved to Sweden in 1994), I knew POC who were lawyers, teachers, tenured college professors, the mayor and corporate executives. I don’t doubt for one moment that they had to work harder, have better qualifications and be smarter than your average white guy. IMHO positing all or most of POC as poor is making these people invisible and disrespecting their  achievements. 

        • Drhiphop85

          Mainly because to say otherwise goes against a particular narrative that some anti-racist POC like to use to drive how their points about a racist structure. This is in no way saying that their aren’t institutional/structural bias going against POC, women, non-heterosexuals, and poor people in general. It’s just that those who don’t fit the select and particular narrative for some type of rhetoric (be it racist or anti-racist), they are usually left out, particularly if they are not a statistically significant population. Of course this is a disservice to the particular population, but that doesn’t seem to matter to those who create those particular narratives.

  • hm

    your comment isn’t totally irrelevant because the idea that Black men in prison should ally with the White men who put them there in the name of male-solidarity would be ridiculous. And yet for some reason Black women are supposed to get on side with white women and fight for their concerns. It is really ridiculous.

    • dp

      But sometimes it’s the white men in there with them. And, on occasion, they’ve been wrongly convicted.

      I don’t see anything wrong with solidarity between inmates. In fact, racial divisions have been used to quell prisoner solidarity for a long time.

      I should explain: I am very strongly against the death penalty. I also think issues like prison rape are often ignored. I believe prisoners – of every race – need all the advocates they can get.

      I’m sorry if I hijacked the conversation. I didn’t mean to take away from the racial aspects of the Troy Davis tragedy.

  • rochelle

    I’m glad this conversation is beginning to happen – still a lot of work to do. But something else that hasn’t been brought up enough is SlutWalk’s relationship with Muslim women who are already viewed by majority discourse to be sexually uptight, submissive, and anti-sex. The idea that oppressed Muslim women must be liberated via miniskirts is a tired trope that I fear slutwalk is reproducing. Not only does it obscure the fact that women who choose to wear niqab, hejab or other ‘modest’ dress are raped too, but it completely forecloses the possibility that women can be ‘free’ while still valuing modesty. I’m glad Harsha Walia’s piece on this site mentioned this, quoting community organizer Nassim Elbardouh, and I comment Racialicious for being one of the few blogs that I have seen to bring it up. 

    • Lyonside

      Not just Muslim women, but I also get the feeling that the SlutWalks, in particular, are for young, cis-gender, conventionally attractive, “normal” weight women who would look socially acceptable in whatever they choose to wear. I have never worn a miniskirt in my life, even when I was borderline anorexic in college (my lowest weight, with my ribs and hipbones showing, no stomach, and hair turning red from lack of protein? Still 5 pounds over the MFing BMI.) I tend to dress modestly for a middle class American, and I have almost always chosen comfort over fashion.

      That said, I still have been threatened with violence and sexual violence (I’m lucky). I still have been called a liar and a troublemaker when I reported incidents. I still have been sexually harassed. The whole idea not just for pretty white women, although it sure as hell feels like it sometimes.

  • multiple ids never quenched

    I would love for you to post some of those spaces that “Thankfully,… already exist.” 

    As a person of color, i’m always looking for spaces where sexual liberation, anti-capitalism, and prison abolition (among many other concepts such as disability access and gender non-conformity) all come together with a strong racial justice framework. Many spaces I have found only include one or two of these elements and make it difficult to write off the important work done by problematic people. 

    For example, the complete lack of sexually liberating analysis in the Black Women’s Blueprint statement made it difficult for me to sign on (you can just tell it wasn’t written by a bunch of old bulldykes who practice BDSM) – as did the racism apparent in Slut Walk. I felt left in the middle, much like I do when I’m with PoC who think anti-capitalism is a white punk/hippie thing that they “can’t afford” or when I’m with white anti-capitalists who don’t know sh*t about how capitalism and imperialism and racism go hand in hand. Often, I find myself creating those spaces, for example in the People of Color Working Group at #occupywallst or in virtual forums where I re-post Kenyon Farrow’s talk at Slut Walk. 

    How can we move beyond dissing entire movements or ideals just because they have problematic people participating? I couldn’t care less about Ms. Harry, what I care about is the content. So again, where are these already existent spaces that you as a white person are so aquatinted with and comfortable in? Also, it occurs to me that perhaps the people who first claimed to be Troy Davis were not white people but black men, for whom execution is a real threat, that they connected their own lives to Mr. Davis (white people are not the center of the universe, much less racial justice slogans). Perhaps you aren’t a slut, but some of us are. Congratulations on reading indigenous critiques of the word “occupy”, you are not above white people who haven’t read them. I’m sorry I have turned from productive to tired, I just don’t have access to your already existent spaces and constantly cutting myself into halves, trying to eat the crumbs given to me on all sides is leaving me parched and cranky…

    • http://twitter.com/grrlEconomist Chloe H

      Thanks for this.  Reading your response was something that was important for me to hear.

  • Nikki

    “I am angry when I continue to see so many white women defending it expressly or remaining complicit in silence, suggesting that “we” (what “we”?) need to focus on sexual violence first, as if it is unrelated to racism.”

    this reminds me of the beginnings of feminism- when getting the right for women to vote  ( i.e. white women) became more important ( for some) than the abolitionist movement and ending racism they were formerly aligned with.  Have we learned nothing at all through history? Maybe the mistake I’m making is that the illusion of  linearity in history will naturally guarantee a more educated public, in this case, a more enlightened movement of women of all races, ethnicities,sexual orientation and class backgrounds carrying the proverbial updated torch. Apparently that’s not the case. It seems through every generation, we have to start over. Or maybe, some of us never started, or want to. 

  • Lyonside

    The death penalty, right or wrong, (an I fall on the side of the latter) is intended for excessively violent and depraved murders, those with extenuating circumstances, cruelty, etc. Now, those guidelines are not followed very well in many jurisdictions. The black male stereotype of the violent savage is just underneath the surface of society, and there have been racist statements made to juries who then apply the death penalty as a direct result. Since men in general commit most violent crimes, more men in poverty are black and are less likely to have GOOD lawyers, and black men are disproportionately given harsher sentences than white men committing similar crimes, your observation is not provocative.

    However, any reason you ascribe to the trend OTHER THAN institutional racism may very well be.

    • dp

      But again, “violent” and “depraved” are subjective terms.  How are infanticides like those committed by Susan Smith or Andrea Yates any less depraved than shooting someone in a robbery?

      I guess I am going to have to be provacative, because I think there are issues other than racism involved.

  • http://rvcbard.blogspot.com RVCBard

    I think it’s a fair question. I would like to note that women of color are the fastest-rising prison population.

    In other words: We’re catching up to the men in that regard. For example, Patricia Spottedcrow.

  • Dulce

    if a well-written completely reasonable open letter is too intimidating to anyone at all its only because sydette is a black woman. there is no excuse for white or POC anti-racists to remain quite in the face of racism. silence is complicity and that is the antithesis of anti-racism. in all of this, the blame has been placed on sydette for having the nerve to speak up against the ongoing racism displayed throughout slutwalk. how you are not all ashamed of yourselves for once again demanding that the oppressed let you oppress them in peace will always be beyond me. what motivates any white or POC to make such irresponsible remarks on such a talented activist is only racism. point blank. black women cannot open their mouths to say “dont tread on me” without racist white womens offensive tears, their racist white allies and their white-identified POC come in to play victim. this is why slutwalk will forever fail. the day you all take responsibility for the oppression you dish out, all will be well, but instead you chose to assasinate the character of the black women who dared to speak out against it. deplorable.

  • http://twitter.com/Karnythia Michelle Kendall

    The day non black WOC & white anti-racists become immune to anti-black racism I might begin to buy the possibility that there is some validity to anon’s assertion that it is Ms. Harry’s fault that there were no white anti-racists in that thread. Until then? I’m going to go with the idea that the same racism that allows for people to defend that sign is present when it comes to interpretations of Ms. Harry’s reactions to offensive behavior.

  • Too tired to fight

    About the question of where were the White anti racists in that thread, I cannot answer for each and every one of them but I can offer a reason for some. I am posting this anonymously because I do not want to be a target for online hatred. But I am a WoC who is part of these conversations.

    The reason many White anti racist women did not participate in Ms. Harry’s thread is because she has systematically alienated them. I will not give away her blogging name (and for those who know her I urge you not to do so either because this is a matter of personal safety. She should not be outed out of disagreement and if you do that, well do not call yourself an anti racist or feminist either). With that said, Ms Harry has alienated lots of people, many of them WoC like myself. She reserves a special kind of vitriol for the owner of this very site. For that reason alone I wouldn’t want to be associated with her. And I know several others who feel the same way. Moreover, I wouldn’t know when or what could potentially trigger a pile-on with nasty posts where she calls those who disagree with her in the slightest “her enemies”. White anti racists already navigate murky waters, I know for a fact many are afraid of saying something out of ignorance and triggering one of these pile ons. People’s reputations are at stake in such visible discussions where they have to say stuff. And they are afraid of not getting it totally right and ending on the receiving end of these pile ons (which happen to PoC and Non PoC alike)

    • http://nanettekelley.com Nanette

      Er… no. I wasn’t actually planning on commenting on all this because I have a lot of catching up to do on the entire issue, but this comment is just crap. 

      Sydette Harry is a strong, passionate, compassionate, outspoken writer, and it is true — you rarely are in doubt of where you stand with her. But if the reason that “many White anti-racist women” didn’t participate in her thread is because they don’t like her or are, as you seem to suggest, afraid of her — then hasn’t her view of them (if it is her view, I am going by what you are saying) been proven out? If there was racist or dismissive speech in that thread by a White person, and “anti-racist” White women read it but stayed silent because they didn’t like the Black or of color person that initiated the thread… then what good are they? I am not sure what good an ally is if they are not there when you need them, whether they like you or not. The point of being an anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-whatever ally is that you fight whatever the oppression is, not that you do an inventory of your likes and dislikes first.

      Sydette does indeed have issues with the owner of this site, which she has not expressed in shadows, or sprinkled around in anonymous whispers, unlike what some others apparently do. She has stated it right out, has said what issues she has, why she has them, and has not left Latoya in any doubt of what the problem is. I don’t call that a “special kind of vitriol”, personally — more a clearing of the air. This is something for them to work out, if it can be worked out, but – again – if this is something that prevents a purported anti-racist anyone from speaking up against the racism or the dismissal of the concerns of women of color, then what good are they?

      Anyway, I object to your effort to portray Sydette as some sort of out-of-control Black woman that indiscriminately attacks allies, White and POC alike, and that everyone is afraid of and, I guess, is someone that no one needs to step up and support because you never know when she might turn on you and all that other baloney. She is not. Does she make her points, sometimes forcefully, sometimes with a surgical precision? Absolutely. Is she always right about everything? She’s not been sainted yet, that I know of. Does she react with compassion, friendship and an outstretched hand when people want to sincerely talk it over? She does, quite often. Is she physically or verbally violent, abusive and someone to be frightened of, as you are implying? Not a bit. 

      This entire issue is, of course, much bigger than Sydette, than you, Latoya or me, but I simply could not let this slide. Especially coming from someone skulking through the shadows rather than standing up and saying what they have to say. 

    • wrrleauieauadal

      so a better response is to remain silent?  as a white person i feel like we usually stay silent because our lack or education on anit-racism (both personal education and educating each other) is so pathetic that we end up being racist even when try not to be, as im sure youre aware.  white people love to believe we’re against racism but our refusal to think critically about it means we still hold on to and pass down loads of racist ideas, perceptions, beliefs, etc.  so when we want to express solidarity or sympathy or even just hold a basic conversation about race we show our ass almost instantly.  and since there’s nothing that hurts a white person more than pointing out that they’re being racist, we just buckle down and get defensive and obnoxious and learn nothing except how to protect our own ignorance. 

      as you said most people dont know sydette harry’s blogging name so why would they react in a way that show familiarity with her online persona?  instead i just think its the typical white person ignorance of race that keeps up the silence.

    • Drhiphop85

      I’m re-reading this over to see where the anger is coming from in responses to your post and I’ve come to a few observations.

      First, I agree with the posters who responded to you. In that silence is rarely a good tool, for two reasons. One is because people do not know your motivations and thus will many times assume or place within you the motivations you think you have. So a better method is to simply speak your peace. It allows you to clear up the air and to at least live with the fact that you “said something”. And the other is because silence means that you are not taking an active fight against the “evil” (using the term loosely) and that means that one less person is standing out against it.

      I also agree that some of your phrasing does come off as though this particular blogger is some thing of a villain. I am not sure if that was your intentions of not (which as we know on the internet and real life means nothing), but you must be more careful of your phrasing. I say this because particularly on the web, people only have your words to judge you by. Granted they come into these discussions with their own bias, history, social context,and so…BUT if you wish to engage in constructive discourse you have to be aware (even more than normal) when you are addressing sensitive issues that can potentially push people to respond with passion. I mean they wouldn’t probably be on this website if they weren’t passionate people, so you have to keep that in mind.

      All of that said, I think I can understand where you are coming from. Not about this particular blogger, since I’ve never seen anything negative about her, but in general about this type of dialogue. Anytime you have those who are in privilege attempt to critically assess their privilege and have a constructive dialogue with those without it, you inevitably run into some risk. You run the risk of pretense (whether real or imagined), dishonesty, or misinterpretation. All of this stems from a history of hostile relationships between those with privilege and those without.  In usual situations the un-privileged are the ones whose points are either seen as whining (“Oh get over it, women don’t have it that bad”) or ignorant (“You just don’t know what you’re talking about”) in their dialogues with the privileged, and so they usually face large amounts of opposition. This creates an environment where both sides are either hostile to each other OR do not truly ever communicate about these issues. This of course goes to my long-standing belief that we, as in all of us, need to have more forums to talk that are not about hostility and one person’s worldview being “more right”.

      I’ve had that issue when discussing gender and sexuality issues with those who are not of the privileged class. Luckily I do not take things personally and it eventually comes through that I am there for an honest interactive discourse. Of course it helps that some of my other identities are not as privileged so I am aware of how the dynamics in discussing these issues can go. Everyone does not of course have that same luxury (a privilege in itself).

      I hope that I did not misinterpret anyone OR misconstructed the arguments here. Just trying to give a different viewpoint and observation to these things.

  • k.eli

    I’d like to extend a most heartfelt bravo to Ms. Gilmore. Thank you for choosing self-analysis and reason over gut reaction and defensiveness. And most importantly, thank you for listening. As a WOC, sometimes it feels like I’m David going up against Goliath without a slingshot whenever something offensive is said or implied and everyone around me seems perfectly content on remaining silent, whether they agree with it or not. And although I hate to admit it, there are times when I’ve chosen to bite my tongue on the issue for the simple fear that I would be my only ally. Then, of course, I would go home and wish I had said something instead of allowing the other people around to think I was complicit with what was said. But, alas, I am a rather introverted person so for me, having some (any) back-up would undoubtedly give me the courage to speak up. Because sometimes the burden is too heavy a load for one person alone.